Weibold! Academy: Rubber Powder Applications - Rubber Industry

Dear Readers, This is the sixth article from our monthly blog series “Weibold! Academy”.Weiboold Academy Logo As we have mentioned before, with these articles we try to provide our readers and our newsletter subscribers with valuable knowledge about the tire recycling industry. We believe that a good knowledge foundation might be beneficial for everyone involved in the industry and each month we cover different topics, thus providing you with important know-how for the tire recycling industry. Month by month we together dwell deeper into the world of tires and the ways of recycling them. In case you have missed our first five W! Academy articles, you can find them here:

  1. Welcome to Weibold! Academy
  2. Weibold! Academy: Recycled Rubber Output Spectrum and Rubber Granulates
  3. Weibold! Academy: Rubber Granulates, Rubber Powder, Tire Derived Steel and Tire Derived Fiber
  4. Weibold! Academy: Tyre Recycling Value Chain
  5. Weibold! Academy: Applications for Tyre Recycling Plant Output
  6. Weibold! Academy: Rubber Granulate Applications

This month we continue covering the recycled rubber output spectrum. We will start explaining about rubber powder applications and in particular about the Rubber Industry.

Rubber Powder Applications

Rubber Industry

Sales markets for fine rubber powders in the rubber processing industry ensue with the application of rubber powders as fillers and substitutes. Rubber powder can partly surrogate cost-intensive raw materials like natural caoutchouc. The situation for synthetic stirene-butadiene rubber (SBR), also substitutable by rubber powder is quite similar. It is principally desirable to get more independent from fluctuating and unpredictable pricing developments for natural and synthetic rubber – in addition the chances emerge to achieve independence from centered markets and producers of natural rubber in order to achieve a diversification, short delivery paths and thus an effective and sustainable cost and delivery structure. But it must be also mentioned that virgin rubber prices are currently at an all-time low and companies using virgin rubber are not as much motivated to incorporate recycled rubber in their products as back in 2010 and 2011 when virgin rubber prices peaked.

Price Evolution of Natural and Synthetic Rubber

Price Evolution of Natural and Synthetic Rubber; source: http://www.ihs.com/products/chemical/index.aspx?pu=1&rd=cmai 

A recently published article in July/August issue of European Rubber Journal (ERJ) magazine London (*) mentioned that price-gains made early in the second quarter of 2016 were more or less wiped out by mid-May. Since then, though, the market seems to have gained a new lease of life with significant hikes recorded in some Far East markets – ERJ’s June snapshot of trading in China, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand shows.

Overall, however, markets were still well short of the year-to-date peaks reached in April, suggesting that the producer-country drive to rebalance the market was losing steam.

As ERJ previously reported, recovery was being largely driven by a deal between Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia to cut rubber exports by 615 kilotonnes over the six months to August. The general line from supplier bodies such as IRCo (the International Rubber Consortium) and the ANRPC (Association of Natural Rubber Producer Countries) is that prices will then start to recover significantly within the next couple of years. However, this view is not shared by all.

Feedstock Consideration for Rubber Industry Applications

When considering the use of rubber powder in various rubber applications, the properties of the rubber are critical to both its processing characteristics and its suitability in the final application. It proved important that the feedstock for rubber powder which is targeting the rubber industry is originating from truck tyres only and the tread of truck tyres in particular. Car tire derived rubber powder would not be suitable for the majority of applications. In the following we describe some of the potential applications for rubber powder originating from end-of-life tyres in the rubber industry.

New and Retreaded Tire Manufacturing

Increasingly larger amounts of uncontaminated natural rubber wastes, primarily from truck tire treads, are granulated, treated and refined for reuse in the manufacture of new tires. Recycling research centers are developing new techniques and formulae to produce materials which are competitive in both cost and wear ability. The larger tire manufacturers usually use their own compounding facilities. Tire manufacturers are driven to use recycled rubber in their manufacturing as a cost cutting measure. Public concerns, however, about the impact of re-used material on the safety on the road – whether real or perceived – represents a back pressure limiting the amount manufacturers will use. Generally and dependent on the type of tyre, European and U.S manufacturers may add from 0 to 10% of their rubber mix in recycled rubber. The requirement however primarily is for powders in 40 to 80 mesh (150 μm to 250 μm) size. This size range is difficult to produce with a conventional ambient technology. This market requires a long market entry phase in which the technical suitability for adding the material to the tire compounds must be proven and the customers’ vendor requirements as a reliable long term supplier are met.

Uses in Rubber based Automotive Applications

Increasing amounts of recycled tire rubber (from recycled tyres and/or technical rubbers) are reused in the manufacture of new cars in general. Rubber powder is mixed with other materials to produce many car parts, such as:

  • brake linings
  • flexible tubing
  • battery casings
  • door facings mats
  • Seat-belt housings

General Rubber Compounders

Compounders are manufacturers of rubber, usually in sheet form, who produce rubber mixes for manufacturers of rubber goods. They may be inclined to mix in – up to a certain percentage – recycled rubber powders. The mix may however affect the characteristics of their product output due to the vulcanized state of the powder. This effect may not be detrimental to the product but must be verified in any case. Most compounders can only add very little quantity of tire related recycled rubber powders to their compounds if the input material consist of a car and truck tire mix. The higher the truck tire content the more a compounder may usually use. Highest quality in terms of purification and consistent grading is required. Depending on the applications compounders can use sizes of up to 800 microns. Some examples of industrial rubber applications:

  • Anti-vibration mounts
  • Hoses
  • Flooring
  • Gaskets and Seals
  • Oil-field products

Footwear

Footwear manufacturers have been using considerable amounts of rubber for many years and new uses have recently been added. E.g. an inner sole made from rubber powder which lines the shoe and cushions the foot to reduce stress and discomfort. The shoe industry is much diversified. The center for mass manufacture lies in Asia. Target companies would be specialized compounders. High purity, low price and consistent grading is In fall 2008, Timberland was the first shoe company to use Green Rubber™ material in their soles.

For more information please contact us directly on sales@weibold.com .

(*) http://www.european-rubber-journal.com/2016/07/29/price-rally-nr-markets-remain-doldrums/

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